Ginger

These Extra-Tender Ginger Scones Are a Cross Between Flaky Biscuits & Spice Cookies

And we'd like to eat one per day, for the rest of time.

December 24, 2018
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Let me set the scene for the day my baking game was forever changed by Martin Philip, head baker at King Arthur Flour Bakery and author of Breaking Bread:

It was cold. Like, the first truly cold day of the season in New York City. My scarf was powerless against wind so blustery, it was whipping against high-rise buildings as if they were made of Legos. I'd just finished Whole30, which, if you haven't heard of it, is a program that aims to promote higher energy levels and overall well-being through concentrating on several specific food groups for 30 days. (Translation: I hadn't had a cookie or a glass of wine for a month.)

I walked into the Tribeca location of Baked, and was escorted down a narrow flight of stairs to the bakery's kitchen, which smelled how I imagine the inside of a gingerbread house smells.

There, Philip began his lesson: a demonstration of several winter pastries, including a honey-sweetened quick bread and exceedingly buttery (in the best possible way) shortbread cookies. But I only had eyes for one of his subjects: the ginger scones. Deftly, he worked butter into dry ingredients he'd been chilling in the freezer for an hour (more on that below)—which included white whole-wheat flour he very casually substituted in for the full quantity of all-purpose from his original recipe—just barely brought the mixture together, and turned it over onto the countertop to cut. About 20 minutes later, I met the most spectacularly delicious scones I'd ever tasted.

They were so tender and flaky (like fresh biscuits), I wanted to cover the insides with butter just to watch it melt into the crags. They were spicy as all get-out. Think: the classics, like cinnamon and cloves, plus some twists, like coriander and (!!!) a little bit of black pepper. And each time I came across a bite of crystallized ginger (the dough was studded with flecks of it), I felt like I'd won the lottery.

This is my phone background now... Photo by Bobbi Lin

After thinking of those ginger scones every day for about a month—and mentioning them so many times to my friends, family, and colleagues, I think they began to get concerned—I finally reached out to Philip to get to the bottom of why his scones were so much better than any I'd ever had. Here are his top tips:

1. Swap flours for whole-wheat ones with abandon (sort of).

I've always been one to experiment with various whole grain flours in baking (hi, Bien Cuit buckwheat cookies!), but I have to admit, I've had too many dry-dough scares to make me totally comfortable just going for it on a whim. According to Philip, that's exactly what you should do—as long as you pay attention to adjusting the hydration, as well.

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Top Comment:
“I don't think that the ingredient sizes are correct. According to this recipe, 8 grams = 2teaspoons but 3 grams = ½ teaspoon 1 gram, according to the recipe also = 1/2teaspoon.??? ”
— kim
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"Whole-grain flour contains bran, which absorbs more liquid than flour milled from only the endosperm portion (the white, starchy part) of the wheat," he says. "The increase in bran content requires some small adjustments."

In his recipe for ginger scones, he advocates substituting white whole-wheat flour for 100% of the all-purpose called for in the recipe.

"White whole wheat has a light, mild flavor, giving you all of the nutrition and fiber of whole grains with results similar to all-purpose flour. You may prefer to add slightly more cream to make a moist, tender dough," says Philip, suggesting that an additional 10% to 20% more heavy cream will do the trick.

2. Keep certain flours in the freezer.

Yes, you read that correctly. And no, "freezer" isn't hip new slang for "pantry." According to Philip, storing all "whole" flours in the freezer is the key to keeping them fresh—and therefore, much better-tasting—for longer.

"I keep all whole flours (including things like almond flour, chickpea flour, etc.) in the freezer," he says. "The germ, which is present in whole flours, will go rancid much more quickly at room temperature. Flours such as all-purpose do not need to be frozen unless you rarely bake (so, bake often!)."

He adds that if you're ever unsure whether your flour has expired, just give it a sniff and a taste, and you'll be able to tell whether it's gone rancid.

3. Make some more room in that freezer, 'cause that's where your dry mix should live, too.

At the ginger scone demonstration, Philip spoke about mixing dry ingredients in advance, then keeping them in the freezer until use.

Chilling the dry ingredients serves two purposes for doughs like this one: As with storing flour in the freezer initially, it keeps whole flours fresher, and it also optimizes the temperature of the dry mix for the eventual working in of the butter, which needs to be kept cold (and unmelted) for maximum flakiness.

"I recommend this for biscuits, scones, pie crust, puff pastry," he says. "Anything that uses what I call 'cold butter process.'" Aka, a dough where you're integrating tiny pieces of butter into the flour but don't want it to fully combine with the flour, so that when it bakes, it creates pockets of air.

Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for the flakiest, most tender baked goods? Let us know in the comments!

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches.

2 Comments

kim December 28, 2018
I don't think that the ingredient sizes are correct. According to this recipe, 8 grams = 2teaspoons but 3 grams = ½ teaspoon 1 gram, according to the recipe also = 1/2teaspoon.???
 
Martin December 28, 2018
Hey Kim,
Different ingredients have different densities. A half teaspoon of salt weighs more than a half teaspoon of flour, and so forth. Use the quantities prescribed in the recipe and it will work. If you measure in grams, I recommend a scale which accurately measures small amounts (for things which weigh less than 25 grams).
Happy baking,
Martin